Elephant Parade

31st March 2010

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An Elephant in the room is generally a rather difficult to ignore yet socially unacceptable subject to broach over breakfast viz everyone knows that xxx has just been fired, has 6 months to live or has been left by her husband for another man. 

However, ignoring a micro herd of painted baby elephants designed by heavy-weights of the fashion and art worlds is pretty impossible, which, as it goes, is kind of the idea.

I attended the breakfast launch of Elephant Parade 2010, an initiative to raise awareness and cash for Elephant Family, a charity dedicated to ensuring the survival of the Asian elephant.

On 3 May, the capital will be taken over by 260 life-size baby elephants, all hand-painted by an assortment of established and emerging talent including Marc Quinn, Diane Von Furstenberg, Alice Temperley, Lulu Guinness, Julien Macdonald, Issa, John Rocha, Alberta Ferretti, Jonathan Yeo, Jack Vettriano, Nina Campbell and Nicky Haslam.

Until July, they will grace a host of London landmarks from Buckingham Palace to Parliament Square and the South Bank whereupon they will be herded together for a giant public exhibition followed by an auction by Sotheby’s Henry Wyndham which aims to raise over £1 million for the cause. The revenue will help Elephant Family to buy and manage vital wildlife habitat and to invest in community education projects giving Asian elephants a safer and more sustainable future.

As charity founder, Mark Shand, explained, the Asian elephant population has shrunk by over 90% in the last 100 years –  from 250,000 to an estimated 25,000 and if the current trend continues, the species will be extinct by 2050.

Mark introduced celebrated handbag designer Lulu Guinness whose own beast is emblazoned with a giant lipstick kiss on its behind. The charity’s frisky patron couldn’t resist patting its bottom although he did keep his hands to himself where its creator was concerned! In his defense though, he did point out that “the arse is the safest place to pat an elephant – unless it kicks you of course!”

But star turn goes to artist Ben Shine’s elephant – expertly disguised as a London Black Cab. 

A studio has been set up at Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre (where else?) where the artists involved can paint their elephants with eco-friendly colours supplied by Farrow & Ball. And once they’re finished, environmentally friendly haulage company, Eco Movers is responsible for ferrying the herd to their various destinations across the capital.

So go to www.elephantfamily.org to discover more and find out how to lobby our government (whichever party might end up in charge) to support the cause.

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